Many terrific crime fiction writers are based in Canada.
And each time I read the list of authors being honored at the Arthur Ellis Awards, I realize how little I know about Canadian authors.
Here is the list of the winners of the 2018 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing, announced by the Crime Writers of Canada.
This list should inspire book sales among readers. Crime Writers of Canada was founded in 1982 as a professional organization designed to raise the profile of Canadian crime writers. The members include authors, publishers, editors, booksellers, librarians, reviewers, and literary agents, as well as many developing authors.
(The descriptions are courtesy of the Crime Writers of Canada; publishers listed are who published the novels in Canada. One of the winners is for best novel in French and the description is in French. We don’t speak French but many of our readers do.)
Sleeping in the Ground, by Peter Robinson (McClelland & Stewart):
What the judges said: “From the first few words in the beginning chapter the impact of Sleeping in the Ground was visceral—it packs a heck of a punch. Peter Robinson paints a stunning portrait of a horrific murder scene that makes you feel as shocked and horrified as if you were standing right there. Then you are plunged into a frolic to figure out the who and why. There are so many twists and turns that it is hard to catch your breath. You find yourself swept along by the great mystery of the murders as well as the intricacies of the inter-relationships of Banks and his fellow homicide detectives, and the suspects as well.”
Best First Novel
Full Curl, by Dave Butler (Dundurn Press):
What the judges said: “Dave Butler brings to life the most compelling and complicated protagonist that Canadian crime fiction has seen in a long time. Jenny Willson is one tough cookie whose hard-edged nature and sharp mind make her the perfect candidate to solve this very out-of-the ordinary mystery. With a realistic time-line, multiple murders, and intricate attention to detail, Butler keeps his readers guessing from beginning to end. Truly Canadian in every essence, the scenery practically leaps off the page, making it both a love letter to the Canadian wilderness and a compelling and fast-paced mystery.”
Best Novella: The Lou Allin Memorial Award
How Lon Pruitt Was Found Murdered in an Open Field with No Footprints Around, by Mike Culpepper, published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine (Dell):
What the judges said: “Elegant. If there was a word out of place none of us noticed. This story and these characters transported us in time and space and by the end left us in tears.”
Best Short Story
The Outlier, by Catherine Astolfo, published in 13 Claws (Carrick Publishing):
What the judges said: “The Outlier grabs the reader's attention from the first sentence. There was good foreshadowing and tension, with a solid ending and good believability. Prose was well done (showed rather than told) and the dialogue moved the plot along well. The protagonist was interesting and original, as was the diabolical plot. An unexpected twist ending reveals a criminal familiar to many of us, and this time he’s getting away with murder.”
Best Book in French
Les tricoteuses, by Marie Saur (Héliotrope Noir):
What the judges said: “Avec Les tricoteuses, Marie Saur nous plonge dans une intrigue prenante et originale tout en nous amenant dans un pan d’histoire moins connu du militantisme féministe au Québec: les grèves déclenchées par les ouvrières dans les usines textiles pour améliorer leur condition de travail. Sans jamais tomber dans les pièges du genre et les stéréotypes, elle nous offre une galerie de personnages pittoresque et un texte d’une grande qualité littéraire, en particulier dans ses dialogues. Le récit policier intéresse, et Marie Saur l’ouvre au roman social en dénonçant les puissants, assurés de leur bon droit. Elle y écorche au passage le milieu des médias prêt à tout pour attirer l’audience. Le tout avec une sensibilité, une subtilité et une teinte d’humour noir qui font de Ses tricoteuses un polar incontournable.”
Best Juvenile/YA Book
Chase - Get Ready to Run, by Linwood Barclay (Penguin Random House Puffin Canada):
What the judges said: “The plot is inventive and captivating from the opening chapter where the reader is taken into the mind of a dog as Chipper, the Border Collie, escapes from a top secret, scientific facility. This is a highly imaginative but believable story exploring the potential of cyber crime using a dog to mask the nefarious goals of his handlers. The book has strong boy and girl characters with the girl, atypically, being the computer expert and the boy expressing well the emotions and difficulties of being an orphan. It quietly introduces an emerging boy girl relationship suitable for the juvenile age group. The author employs age appropriate language and uses humour to temper the more frightening aspects of the story. “
Best Nonfiction Book
The Whisky King, by Trevor Cole (HarperCollins):
What the judges said: “The Whisky King uses the lives of two protagonists to tell the history of prohibition and liquor smuggling in Canada. It combines the stories of a charming rum runner who became king of the bootleggers and the perennially underpaid Mountie who helped to shut him down. It captures the atmosphere of the 1920s and 30s in Hamilton and Toronto, a time when law enforcement didn't have the tools available today to bring about convictions and when the criminals told bold lies in court to enable them to, quite literally, get away with murder. The story-telling draws the reader in like a good novel. The book exhibits a high degree of professionalism in its research, writing, editing and presentation.”
Unhanged Arthur for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel
Destruction in Paradise, by Dianne Scott
What the judges said: “A unanimous choice, the judges were intrigued by the location of the book in both time and space. The choice of Toronto Island offers a relatively closed community providing a framework to contain the action. And the Island, along with its myriad engaging inhabitants, is well enough described to become a character in its own right. The choice of the 1960s as the timeframe furnishes an opportunity to set the book in an external milieu of social issues which integrate well with the main plot. The judges were impressed with the protagonist, finding her well-rounded with her own character arc and with an interesting subplot of her unusual family life. While not unduly complex, the plot hangs together well, with the ending growing organically out of what had gone before.”
Crime Writers of Canada Grand Master Award
Gail Bowen is being recognized by Crime Writers of Canada for her long and illustrious career as a crime fiction author. She has almost 20 books in her long running Joanne Kilbourn series, several of which were either nominated for or received awards, including the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel in 1994, for A Colder Kind of Death. She has also written four Rapid Reads novellas and several plays. She is well established in Canada, highly respected in the writing community and much sought after by readers. She is frequently a guest at literary events. Several of her Joanne Kilbourn books were turned into a TV series.
Many terrific crime fiction writers are based in Canada.